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TSTA Weekly Update, 07/27/2023

Jul 27

TSTA Weekly Update, 07/27/2023

Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association

Member News


Our Amarillo Sod Poodles rain-out last month has been rescheduled! Friday September 15, dinner at 6:30PM to 7:30PM. Your Sod Poodles take on the Frisco Roughriders at 7:05PM. The Sod Poodles are HOT right now and look like they are going to stay hot so plan on attending with your fellow seed professionals.


We were, originally, scheduled for a club box when our game was rained out last month. Unfortunately all the boxes are booked the reminder of the year so we've moved to the picnic area. This area is "outside" but is shaded and should be very comfortable. The good news is we went from being able to accommodate 25 people to 35 people. This is first reserved - first dibs so please let the TSTA staff know your intentions. Plan to bring some of your own people and meet with your friendly competitors at this fun event!


TSTA staff will be unable to join you but we scarcely think that will dampen anything and we're hopeful Mother Nature won't dampen anything this time either. Food is included and the first 35 get free admission. Drinks, unfortunately, are on you.


Reserve your spot(s) today! It's pretty easy; reply to this email or call 512-944-5052.


ASTA continues its partnership with Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business to host the 2023 ASTA Management Academy August 15-17, 2023 in West Lafayette, IN. Participants will explore fundamental marketing strategies and the changing agribusiness environment as well as identify and apply management tools to examine profitability.


“Today’s seed industry has proven to be a challenging and disruptive environment in terms of technology changes, the continuous quest for efficiency, and increasing consumer demands,” said Scott Downey, center director and professor of agricultural economics. “The program will provide a great opportunity for seed industry professionals to sharpen their management toolkit, address challenges and take a hard look at their strategy for future success.”


For more information or to register, view the academy webpage.


Join the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) this December 5 - 8, 2023 at our NEW venue, the Hyatt Regency Orlando, for the Field Crop Seed Convention, an unparalleled seed business networking and educational opportunity. Gathering over 2,000 attendees from 36 countries, the Field Crop Seed Convention (formerly known as the CSS & Seed Expo) is THE place to see and be seen amongst the global community of companies working in all field crops, from corn and soybean, to wheat, rice, cotton, sorghum and so much more. Now in Orlando, after 77 years in Chicago, our new venue offers any and all seed industry stakeholders a wealth of new opportunities, in a central hub of exhibits, sessions and private meeting rooms all in one combined meeting space area. 


You don't want to miss this year. Make plans now to join us in Orlando and bring the family along too, for their own special options!

Visit the conference home page to learn more


Source: Clements-Wilcox Funeral Home


Steven Marshall Hawkins (72), of Meadowlakes, TX, passed away on Sunday May 7th, 2023 in Round Rock, TX after a brief battle with cancer.


Steve was born in Odessa Tx to Charles Leslie and Emma Faye Hawkins on August 16, 1950. He graduated from Midland High School in Midland, TX. Steve married the love of his life Candy Parker on August 21, 1971 in Midland and they were married 51 years at the time of his passing.


He graduated from Texas State Technical College with a degree in agronomy. Steve was passionate about agriculture and held many positions across the industry including President and COO of Delta and Pine Land and held leadership positions in Asgrow Seed Company and Smartfield. He was a partner in the Context Network.


Steve is survived by his loving wife Candy Hawkins of Meadowlakes; his daughter Cassie Marie Morgan (of whom he was most proud) and husband Ben Morgan of Georgetown; and the joy of his life, his granddaughter Madeline Morgan of Georgetown; his sister Sara Draper and her husband David Draper of Midland.

In an effort to update and maintain our membership records we request you take a few moments and fill out the very brief info request at the following link.


The link is secure and the information will be used internally by the Texas Seed Trade Association and never shared without your permission. This request is on behalf of your association's board of directors and officers and we greatly appreciate your cooperation. Thank you!


7/27/2023 - If you have not updated your information please take a moment and do so now. We appreciate it! We continue to update this database and need your input!

News Bits


The USDA's good to excellent rating for corn held steady last week while soybean conditions declined slightly. Weather in the Midwest and Plains was mixed last week but could be stressful in most of the region this week with both crops in key development stages.


As of Sunday, 57% of U.S. corn is rated good to excellent, unchanged, with 68% of the crop silking at 16% at the dough making stage, both just ahead of the respective five-year averages.


54% of soybeans are good to excellent, down 1%, with 70% of the crop blooming at 31% at the pod setting stage, faster than average.


68% of winter wheat is harvested, slower than the normal pace of 77%.


49% of spring wheat is called good to excellent, 2% lower due to dry weather in the northern Plains, with 94% of the crop headed, compared to 93% typically in late July.


46% of the cotton crop is in good to excellent shape, 1% higher, with 78% squaring and 37% setting bolls, both behind the usual rates.


76% of rice is in good to excellent condition, a gain of 3%, and 47% has headed, compared to 40% on average.


60% of sorghum is reported as good to excellent, an increase of 2%, with 36% headed, compared to the five-year average of 37%, and 21% coloring, compared to 19% on average.


44% of U.S. pastures and rangelands are seen as good to excellent, 3% less than last week.


The USDA's weekly crop progress and condition reports run through the end of November.


by Keith Good, University of Illinois' FarmDoc project


Reuters writers Olena Harmash and Tom Balmforth reported on Monday that, "Russia destroyed Ukrainian grain warehouses on the Danube River and wounded seven people in a drone attack on Monday, expanding the target area of an air campaign it launched last week after pulling out of the Black Sea grain deal, Kyiv said.


"The attacks last week mostly targeted the sea ports of Odesa but Monday's pre-dawn strikes hit infrastructure along the Danube, an alternative export route that is vital for Kyiv after the demise of the year-old deal allowing safe exports of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea."


The Reuters article indicated that, "Global wheat and corn futures rose sharply on concern that Russia's attacks and more fighting, including a drone strike on Moscow, could threaten grain exports and shipping.


"News website Reni-Odesa cited a local official as saying three grain warehouses had been destroyed in the Danube port city of Reni in an attack involving about 15 drones.


"Reni port, an important transport hub, looks across the Danube to NATO and European Union member Romania."


To read the entire article click here.


USDA launches new Seed Liaison Initiative

Organic Seed Alliance


This week USDA announced the launch of its Seed Liaison Initiative to help growers, plant breeders, and others who work with seed navigate the complex US seed system. The initiative aims to help create a transparent and competitive seed market by providing a point of contact for seed growers and intellectual property administrators, antitrust regulators, licensing and labeling enforcers, and other federal partners. Among what’s included on the initiative’s new website are resources for plant breeders and seed growers, and a portal for filing a complaint involving mislabeled seed to the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) for investigation.


Seed Liaison Initiative Website


The newly established Seed Liaison Initiative in AMS is the result of USDA implementing recommendations published in the Promoting Fair Competition and Innovation in Seeds and Other Agricultural Inputs report that it published in March 2023. Both the report and related actions by the USDA are in response to the Biden Administration’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy announced in July 2021, creating a whole-of-government approach to competition.


Editor's Note: Not sure, exactly, who this "system" is designed to help. Additionally, we were not previously aware the U.S. had "a complex seed system." Most of our members do not seem to have a difficult time navigating the current regulatory framework. Thus we wonder if there is a "coming" regulatory framework that may prove more challenging. See additional information below.


Organic Seed Alliance delivers comments on seed industry competition issues in Washington, DC

Organic Seed Alliance


Last week, Organic Seed Alliance’s Outreach Director Cathleen McCluskey traveled to Washington, DC, to participate in meetings at the White House and at The Capitol on addressing competition issues through the 2023 Farm Bill. We were honored to be invited to the White House and Department of Agriculture Listening Session on Competition Legislative Priorities, which included 16 food and agriculture advocacy organizations representing a range of communities, and representatives from the White House Office of Public Engagement, USDA, National Economic Council, and Domestic Policy Council. We also participated in the House Democratic Task Force on Agriculture and Nutrition in the 21st Century’s 2023 Farm Bill Roundtable at The Capitol chaired by Representative Bennie G. Thompson.


Our comments for both meetings focused on ways in which the egregious use of utility patents used on seed drives the consolidation of power in the seed industry, and drew on our 2023 Policy Platform for Seed for solutions to addressing it in the 2023 Farm Bill. We called on the White House, USDA, and the House Democratic Task Force on Agriculture and Nutrition in the 21st Century to do the following:


  • Reform patent law to exclude living organisms, including seeds, plant varieties, and genetic traits, and that patents used on seed include an exemption on seed saving, breeding, and research. We also asked that the Plant Variety Protection Act serve as the strongest form of IP protection associated with seed.
  • Draw attention to and support the Seeds and Breeds for the Future Act introduced by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The Act supports research and development of ready-to-use, regionally-adapted, and publicly available seed varieties and animal breeds. These investments would help farmers confront drought and varying growing conditions by providing improved plant and animal varieties that are developed to suit their specific regions’ growing conditions.
  • Place a moratorium on new seed mergers in the agricultural sector and a statutory cap on levels of concentration in agricultural markets.
  • Take action on all of the recommendations outlined in the Promoting Fair Competition and Innovation in Seeds and Other Agricultural Input Industries report released by the USDA last March.


OSA applauds the Biden Administration for its attention to seed as part of the July 9, 2021, Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. One message was clear across the board at the White House and on Capitol Hill last week – farmers and seed growers need action for fair markets now.


Editor's Note - Again: Not having access to patents is not in the best interest of intellectual property owners. Patents generally represent the best method of protecting valuable plant breeding efforts because the courts understand patents more thoroughly than PVP and they are a bit more comprehensive.


What the "alliance" proposes would be good for those who use other's hard work as a shortcut to their own potential success. And a statutory cap on levels of concentration on agricultural seed markets? Don't we already have antitrust regulations that address this issue? A moratorium on mergers is an artificial barrier to your potential profitability and technical advancement. One supposes stifling your business options might create additional options for others.


Don't think these suggestions as outlandish. Remember well the audience for these proposals. Leveling the playing field? Forgive us our skepticism that's not what this administration has in mind.


By Chun Han Wong, Wall Street Journal


For one of his newest anticorruption campaigns, Chinese leader Xi Jinping is ordering his enforcers to dig up dirt. This time, he means, literally, the kind in the ground.


The Communist Party's top disciplinary body--after punishing graft in the military, domestic security organs and the financial sector--is now hunting officials, merchants and farmers it suspects of harvesting illicit profits from trade in grains and seeds. The body is one of the busiest and most powerful agencies in China, tasked with imposing control in areas that Xi considers his top priorities.


Tasked with being more forceful in safeguarding the nation's "seed security," authorities have investigated dozens of cases involving seed-related misconduct and, in several instances, imprisoned grain-sector officials on corruption charges, according to government disclosures and state media reports. Meanwhile, local governments are directing their own crackdowns on "seed sector corruption," sending cadres into the countryside to educate farmers and flush out offenders.


Senior Chinese lawmakers also are reviewing a proposed food security law, which would set legal frameworks for safeguarding food production and supplies, developing cutting-edge seed technologies and punishing misconduct that jeopardizes food safety and national security, according to a draft issued in late June by China's national legislature.


Officials say the goal is to stop the proliferation of fake and substandard seeds that could jeopardize food production and safety, while punishing officials, merchants and farmers who siphon agricultural subsidies and peddle low-grade seeds.


Xi has often highlighted food security as a national interest, calling on officials to ensure that China can fully nourish its 1.4 billion people. His demands have taken on greater urgency in recent years as he pushed to prepare his country for a potential confrontation with the U.S.--a major source of Chinese grain imports, including soybeans and corn--and forestall disruptions to food supplies for one of the world's most populous nations.


To read the entire report click here.



Source: USDA news release


Real, or inflation-adjusted, annual food spending in the United States increased steadily from 1997 to 2022, except in 2008 and 2009 during the Great Recession and in 2020 during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.


Food spending includes food at home (FAH), described as food intended for off-premises consumption from retailers such as grocery stores, and food away from home (FAFH), described as food purchased at outlets such as restaurants or cafeterias.


Total food spending increased 70 percent from 1997 to 2022. During this period, FAH spending increased at a slower rate (53 percent) than for FAFH (89 percent). Total food spending increased on an annual basis by 7.2 percent in 2021 and 4.5 percent in 2022.


FAFH spending increases (19 percent in 2021 and 8 percent in 2022) drove overall increases in food spending. FAH spending increased by 4 percent in 2021 but fell by 2 percent in 2022. The data for this chart come from the USDA Economic Research Service's Food Expenditure Series data product, updated in June 2023.


Brownfield reports:


The U.S. cattle industry is showing further signs of contraction.


The USDA says the total number of cattle and calves in the U.S. on July 1st was 95.9 million head, 3% below a year ago, the lowest inventory in about a decade and a bigger than anticipated decrease.


There were declines in most major inventory categories, including all cows and heifers that have calved and replacement heifers, along with steers, bulls, and calves.


At 29.4 million head, beef cows matched the lowest number in recorded data, going back to 1971.


Several factors are contributing to that decline, including persistent drought conditions in some of the major U.S. cattle areas and relatively high feed costs.


Contraction will likely continue as the US calf crop for the first half of 2023 is 2% below last year at 24.8 million head.


The numbers look neutral to supportive for cash cattle and wholesale beef prices, but that will also depend on demand.


Jul. 26, 2023

Source: University of Illinois news release


There's a complex world beneath our feet, teeming with diverse and interdependent life. Plants call out with chemical signals in times of stress, summoning microbes that can unlock bound nutrients and find water in soil pores too small for the finest roots. In return, microbes get a safe place to live or a sugary drink.


It's a classic you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours scenario. Except when it's not. New research from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign challenges conventional wisdom to show free-living soil microbes are just looking out for themselves.


In a multi-generation experiment, researchers from the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) found microbes helped plants cope with drought, but not in response to plants' cries for help. Instead, the environment itself selected for drought-tolerant microbes. And while those hardy microbes were doing their thing, they just happened to make plants more drought-tolerant, too.


"It was a surprise because I expected to see evidence of coevolution and mutualism between the microbes and plants. I think people, myself included, forget that just because microbes do something adaptive or beneficial to the plant, it doesn't necessarily mean they're doing it for the plant," said Kevin Ricks, who completed the project as part of his doctoral degree in the Program for Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology at Illinois. Ricks is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto.


To learn how microbes help plants deal with drought, Ricks established live soil communities in pots with or without plants. He watered half of the pots well and imposed drought conditions in the other half, then repeated these treatments for three generations. The idea was to allow time for selection to occur -- potentially for plants to signal their need for help and select for microbes that came to their aid.


In phase two of the experiment, Ricks mixed everything up. He again grew plants in soil from phase one and kept the same watering treatments, but some plants were now experiencing drought in soils that had been well-watered for generations, and vice versa. He expected soil microbes from historically dry pots would have adapted to those conditions, helping plants withstand drought more than microbes from historically wet pots. And that is what he found: Plants experiencing drought were bigger when grown with drought-adapted microbes.


But -- and this is key -- that was true for soils grown with or without plants in phase one. In other words, microbes adapted to drought over time even without plants selecting for them through chemical signals. Yet they still provided benefits when grown with plants generations later. It was proof these microbes were doing their own thing, only helping plants incidentally.


No previous studies on the topic had included a no-plant control, leaving the research community to conclude plants and microbes were communicating in a co-evolutionary dialogue.


"Our results challenge classical thinking about what counts as a mutual benefit. Mycorrhizae and nitrogen-fixing bacteria are kind of model systems, things that people study when they talk about mutualism. But then there's this fuzzier set of interactions that we don't understand yet, but could still wind up having a mutual benefit, or at least a one-way benefit to the plant. I think our approach brings this system into the spotlight," said co-author Tony Yannarell, associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, part of the College of ACES at Illinois.


The researchers also sterilized some phase-one soils before imposing treatments in phase two. In those pots, plants in historically dry soils were no better off when experiencing drought.


"Some previous studies didn't actually compare soil with and without microbes, so it's hard to really implicate the microbes as the driver of the benefit," Yannarell said. "There are a lot of things that could have been different in the soil, but when we sterilized the microbes away in our experiment, we lost the benefit of the drought adaptation."


The researchers didn't identify the microbes in their experiment, so they can't be sure exactly how they were benefiting plants. But Ricks said soil microbes are involved in many processes that could help plants withstand stress.


"Microbes are responsible for nutrient and carbon cycling, so whether or not they're actually facilitating plant access to water, they could still be freeing up nutrients that make the plant healthier and more resilient to stress," he said.


Ricks hesitated to claim his study will shift paradigms in ecological research, especially considering it was a greenhouse experiment focused on free-living soil microbes and a single type of environmental stress. But he hopes it will encourage other scientists to consider no-microbe and no-plant controls in future studies. They might just reveal what's really going on beneath our feet.


The study, "Soil moisture incidentally selects for microbes that facilitate locally adaptive plant response," is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B [DOI:10.1098/rspb.2023.0469]. This research is a contribution of the GEMS Biology Integration Institute, funded by the National Science Foundation DBI Biology Integration Institutes Program, [award #2022049]. It was additionally supported by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under project number ILLU 875-952, as well as by the School of Integrative Biology and the Graduate College at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.


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